Study Guide

Andersen's Fairy Tales Visions of Denmark

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Visions of Denmark

The more he and the ferrymen talked, the less comprehensible they were to each other. "I can't understand your dialect," he said finally, and turned his back on them. (The Magic Galoshes.20-21)

This is amusing because the councilman has been transported back in time by a pair of magic galoshes, but instead of realizing what's happened, he assumes that the ferrymen speak a different dialect than he does. Turns out there are a bunch of dialects of the Danish language, so this is actually a plausible explanation… if you've already discounted time travel, that is.

The little girl showed him the whole country of Denmark; and everywhere they went there was the smell of elder flowers; and there flew the flag with a white cross on the red background, the same one that flew from the mast of the ship on which the old sailor had sailed. (Mother Elderberry.50)

This boy hallucinates that Mother Elderberry shows him the whole Danish countryside, in all of the different seasons. Sounds like a decent way to learn to appreciate your country.

The old castle dominates the scene and deep down in its cellar, in a dark room where no one ever comes, sits Holger the Dane. He is clad in iron, his head resting in his hands. He is sleeping and dreaming… Should Denmark ever be in danger, then he will rise, grab his sword, and fight so that all the world will hear it. (Holger the Dane.3)

You've heard of King Arthur, right? And about how he's sleeping in Avalon until Britain needs him as a hero again? Yeah, Holger the Dane is like that, but for Denmark. We definitely don't want to get on his bad side.

The book lay open on the table beside him. He was supposed to learn where all the towns of Zealand were, and everything else that was important about them. The only one that he knew anything about at all was Copenhagen. (Little Tuck.2)

Even small countries like Denmark have tons of cities and towns with their own distinctive features. But, like many kids, this student learns best firsthand; lucky for him, an old lady shows up in his dreams and takes him on a tour of the towns he was supposed to be reading about. (Note: we do not necessary endorse slacking on your studies in hopes someone will magically teach you stuff while you're asleep.)

Between the Baltic and the North Sea lies an old swans' nest called Denmark. In that have been and will be hatched swans whose fame will never die. (The Swans' Nest.1)

A metaphor that equtes a country to a swans' nest… not bad, eh? Plus, the swan is the national animal of Denmark, so this metaphor packs an extra literal punch.

I am not so young any more, I have neither wife nor children or library; but I do subscribe to the Copenhagen News. It is sufficient for me as it was for my father. It is useful and contains all the news of real importance, such as, who is preaching in which church on Sunday and who is preaching in which new book on weekdays. (A Happy Disposition.4)

Apparently Andersen thinks old people only like reading about things that directly affect them. We'd like to state, for the record, that this isn't a problem unique to old people. But, c'mon, dude, there's a big world out there.

Do you know what a rammer looks like? It is a tool that workmen use when they pave a street with cobblestones. In Denmark it is called a "maiden"; and therefore, it is appropriate to use the feminine gender when describing it. (The Two Maidens.1)

Why, thank you, helpful narrator, for giving us this background information! Now we understand the premise of this story, where two of these tools think of themselves as "maidens" and consider themselves to be above the dirty manual labor they're made for. Way to fashion a whole story out of language-specific slang, Andersen.

A ship is sailing from Denmark, the man standing before the mast looks toward the island of Hveen for the last time. Tycho Brahe, who lifted Denmark's name high above the stars—and who received as reward only insults and injury—is sailing into exile in foreign lands. (The Thorny Path.20)

Tycho Brahe, for those not in the know, was a famous Danish astronomer. He made a lot of contributions to astronomy but wasn't appreciated in his homeland, so he eventually left for other parts of Europe. Kinda like Andersen… Hm…. Coincidence?!

The railroad here in Denmark stretches only from Copenhagen across Zealand to Korsør. It is a string on which many pearls are strung. Of such pearls Europe has many; the costliest are Paris, London, Vienna, Naples…Yet many a person does not consider these great cities the most beautiful pearls, but instead points to some little, humble, unknown town, for that to him is home, there live those whom he holds dear. (A String of Pearls.1)

So maybe Danish cities can't compete with other, better-known cities in Europe for titles like "Raddest City in Europe, 1857," but Andersen's believes that little towns have a charm all their own. Because every little town has people in it that make it their home.

"Copenhagen's history is filled with consolations: Hans Christian Oersted's discoveries were building a bridge to the future. A great building was being constructed to house the sculpture of Thorvaldsen. All the people of Copenhagen, rich and poor alike, had given money to make it possible." (Godfather's Picture Book.139)

Even in the middle of some nasty wars and such, the people of Copenhagen were interested in and inspired by science (represented by Oersted, a physicist) and the arts (represented by Thorvaldsen, a sculptor). Kudos to you, Danes.

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